Michael's Excellent Adventure

Days 1–4, 6-16-2002 to 6-19-2002

Tailwind, Windmills, Rivers, and Pass

Well, folks, here I am in Missoula, Montana. A pretty productive 4 days, I must say. John's and my mileage so far is 591 miles. That works out to just shy of 150 miles a day. And that's in the mountains!

The first day was exactly what I had predicted & hoped for: cool, overcast skies and vigorous winds out of the west. So we took advantage, and after a couple delays getting out of Portland, we put the hammer down the whole way up the gorge. We spent the night in Umatilla, making for a mind-mangling 200-mile day 1. And that was fully loaded, with 80 lb. bikes. (Yeah, I can hear you say, he was fully loaded to try that stunt all right.) We averaged 20.3 mph for those 200 miles.

Day two we spent on highways 730 and 12 in southeastern Washington, in the country around Walla Walla. Pretty little town, that. There's a fantastic deli on main street, they make a great roast beef sandwich. By the way, for those of you who have only known me as a vegetarian, forget all that. Soy protein just ain't gonna pass muster on this trip. Anyway, we finished in Pomeroy, Washington in the drizzle with 128 miles, a mere 12 miles from Alpowa summit in the Blue Mountains.

On the third day we woke up early and pushed up the summit. Got a good picture with my teddy bear at the elevation sign at the top. The drop down to the Snake River was fast and furious, with long stretches of fresh pavement. At the bottom there was a 10-mile push on the flat along the river, and bam, we were in Idaho. In Lewiston, John changed out his cassette for an 11-34 to help in the coming climbs, which took some time. We didn't leave Lewiston until almost noon. However, the tailwinds persisted, and pushed us all the way up the Clearwater River to tiny Lowell, Idaho. Beautiful, beautiful tree covered mountainside the whole 135 miles, but once again we pulled up at dusk in the drizzle.

I should note that the weather has been amazing so far, just the scantest amount of rain, sunny but cool weather, and tailwinds out the yin-yang. The rest of the region has been dumped on with all manner of precipitation, but John and I have been juking between the fronts like a running back. All from pure luck.

Yesterday we had a long 75-mile climb up to Lolo Pass. Even more beautiful country than the previous day, we found ourselves traveling along the Lochsa River. Not a bad climb until the last 4 miles, actually. Those 4 were a pain, but again at the top I got some nice shots of the bear at the welcome to Montana sign. We were running low on daylight once again, but the winds were still with us and we had a whole bunch of potential energy to cash in. We screamed down the other side of the pass for about 6 miles, and for another 30 we found ourselves again on a riverside, but this time following it downhill. We pushed 23-26 for that stretch, and pulled into Missoula at sunset, finishing with 125 miles for the day.

We decided we'd been working hard enough and had enough stuff to take care of that a day off was in order. So here I am exploring the town, and currently am sitting in the Adventure Cycling Association's world headquarters. They're very hospitable to touring cyclists here, and have a terminal set up for guests to e-mail from.

Tomorrow we set sail for Lincoln, Montana, and on Saturday we should find ourselves in Great Falls, where we are looking forward to the hospitality of my longtime friend Michael Creighton. From Great Falls it's on to Havre, after which, if the winds do bless us, we may find ourselves pushing on to Glasgow, MO and then Williston, North Dakota. North Dakota in less than two weeks; how cool would that be?

See you soon!

—Michael